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I feel a bit uncomfortable over the single narrative


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This is something I've thought about for a time. I will preface it with that I have no concern over anyone's personal choices.

When I was younger I used to feel empowered by the narrative of being single. That you're strong and independent and don't need anyone. That you can focus on your career and move anywhere you like without being tied down by a partner. 

However, as the environmental crisis has worsened I've begun to look at this narrative with critical eyes. To me it seems like just another part of this toxic individualism that so many societies today favors. I feel like it shames people who are dependent on others and make people isolated. And also the idea of someone totally independent is kinda fiction. We're all dependent on others, it's just that an "independent" person often pays money for what they need (either services or things). This drives them to work longer hours and consume more. 

So I don't like the individualist approach to celebrate my uncoupledness anymore. In fact I want instead to be tied to even more people than the traditional coupled person. It's just not gonna be as tight with one specific person. 

How do you all feel about the narrative of being single? How is it now in your country? How would you like it to be?

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I share many similar feelings. I used to think feed into this narrative, that being single and independent made me almost better than dependent/coupled people. As I've gotten older, I see that this is not true and how much of that mindset was neoliberalistic and like you said, toxic individualism. My mindset has shifted a lot towards collective/community care. I agree that it is false to think that we can ever be completely and truly independent. I see more and more how important it is to be interdependent, to be connected with others and care about people even if we don't have a direct relationship to them.

In general, I feel more and more like "singleness" is not something that properly applies to me. I may not be in a partnership, but I do not think of myself as "single." If anything, I find now the narrative of being single to be isolating. Rather than it being empowering, I see more how it can make people turn a blind eye to the (institutional) barriers of "being single." I think the narrative of being single puts too much emphasis on only caring for yourself. Self-care is important and having some individualism/independence can be nice, but I think it's important to have shared care (#squadcare as I've seen it in some places on the internet). I think there should be more of a balance, not only in our personal relationship but on a larger systemic/institutional level.

I also think that people should be able to celebrate their singleness and independence. I personally like having my own individuality even though I want to be part of a community. I understand that not everyone wants to be part of a community. But I do think that there should be a change in how we see independence vs dependence. I think amatonormativity also plays into the current narrative of being single. Being single is often viewed as a sad, pitiful thing, so to counter that, perhaps people feel even more than they need to justify their singleness, cast it in a better light. I personally used to do that myself, it was my way of rejecting amatonormativity, but this narrative also hurt me. So I think that's something to be addressed as well to make it a healthier narrative. 

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Without division of labor I would have to hunt animals (I'm vegan) or try archaic horticulture (much more fond of that, but I would suck at it, too), since even for simple agriculture tools made by others are needed.

So I think something different is meant by "independent", like being dependent on other people's goodwill. Otherwise only survivalists are independent.

Or maybe it's just a deliberately vague word to shame people.

7 hours ago, Holmbo said:

However, as the environmental crisis has worsened I've begun to look at this narrative with critical eyes.

Commercial services at least utilize their tools and equipment very efficiently. That seems good for the environment. Instead of more people buying equipment and using it rarely. For bike and smartphone repair I have obscure tools that I happen to use extremely rarely. But I had to buy them since those occasions happen.

OTOH the labor costs are the highest expense usually, so all kinds of environmentally harmful practices are used to save labor.

Again OTOH why do we think our own or our friends labor isn't worth anything?

It seems to be sensible only if we regard this activity as a hobby, like I do for repairs. Otherwise it's an economy too. Only that favors are exchanged instead of money.

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11 hours ago, Holmbo said:

When I was younger I used to feel empowered by the narrative of being single. That you're strong and independent and don't need anyone. That you can focus on your career and move anywhere you like without being tied down by a partner.

This can also have assumptions of introversion or, even, misanthropy.
Possibly because this is least challenging to the idea of amantonormativity

7 hours ago, Erederyn said:

I personally like having my own individuality even though I want to be part of a community. I understand that not everyone wants to be part of a community.

There are several studies showing that single people tend to be more "community minded" than those who are coupled/married.

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I'm happy to see others have similar thoughts. I wasn't sure if anyone else saw this connection.

16 hours ago, Mark said:

 There are several studies showing that single people tend to be more "community minded" than those who are coupled/married.

That's a good point. One could then argue that the ideal unit according to neo-liberal individualism is the nuclear family. Where one can get ones basic social needs met but still be flexible enough to adhere to the market. 

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2 hours ago, Holmbo said:

One could then argue that the ideal unit according to neo-liberal individualism is the nuclear family. Where one can get ones basic social needs met but still be flexible enough to adhere to the market. 

I would say so. You could also say that the nuclear family is a tool for neoliberal individualism (and capitalism) to "privatize" social welfare and security as it ensures that the nuclear family unit is the main source of that economic security and welfare rather than the state or community.

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20 minutes ago, Erederyn said:

I would say so. You could also say that the nuclear family is a tool for neoliberal individualism (and capitalism) to "privatize" social welfare and security as it ensures that the nuclear family unit is the main source of that economic security and welfare rather than the state or community.

That might be, but the issue persists for """socialism""" like in Scandinavia, too. For advanced industrial societies it's difficult change. Today many skills are quite specialized and so are dependent on companies.

In the feudal era at some point the guild gave a journeyman the permission to become a master and open his own workshop. From that point on there was no reason to move.

Not relocating to job opportunities often means malemployment. A blacksmith has his smithy, an aerospace engineer has his ???

The ties to the people you leave cannot be replaced. It's even worse than real estate which can at least be sold. So better not to invest too much in those ties...

19 hours ago, Mark said:

There are several studies showing that single people tend to be more "community minded" than those who are coupled/married.

Still sharing a household is better for the environment.

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3 hours ago, DeltaV said:

That might be, but the issue persists for """socialism""" like in Scandinavia, too. For advanced industrial societies it's difficult change. Today many skills are quite specialized and so are dependent on companies.

In the feudal era at some point the guild gave a journeyman the permission to become a master and open his own workshop. From that point on there was no reason to move.

Not relocating to job opportunities often means malemployment. A blacksmith has his smithy, an aerospace engineer has his ???

The ties to the people you leave cannot be replaced. It's even worse than real estate which can at least be sold. So better not to invest too much in those ties...

That's a good point. Although as you imply with your quotation marks, it's still more a soft capitalism. So yeah, having a better welfare state doesn't necessarily lead to less individualism/neoliberalism. But without a good welfare state, people simply would be even more concerned with just fending for themselves and perpetuate neoliberalistic individualism. Perhaps a good welfare state should then be seen as an enabler to combating neoliberalistic individualism rather than the solution to it? But I think there would have to be a shift in culture around interpersonal relationships as well, then. No big deal! 😅 

But indeed, with the high mobility, it's hard to have a community and invest in social ties. I've spent my whole life moving around a lot, so know this reality very well. But it's not totally impossible to have community in a highly mobile society.   

3 hours ago, DeltaV said:

Still sharing a household is better for the environment.

For sure! 

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I feel like I'm even more connected to the place I live as a single person than I would be if i was in a relationship. If I wanted to move and was in a couple then I might be able to persuade my partner to move with me and have that companionship and support in that new place, but as it is I have half a dozen close friends who I can't bare to move away from. The "independent and don't need anyone" was sort of true for me when I was younger, there was the better part of a decade where I didn't spend more than 18 months in one country, but in the end it was the need for companionship and deep connections that made me settle down.

I've never really thought about it before but now I do I don't really like the "strong, independent" narrative. I'm sure it's true for some singles, but why shouldn't it also be true for coupled/poly people? And why should single people have to be strong and independent? Everyone should have a community to rely on, and it's a tragedy how many people, especially the elderly, end up terribly isolated when they lose their partner for one reason or another.

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On 11/29/2020 at 3:02 PM, Erederyn said:

I would say so. You could also say that the nuclear family is a tool for neoliberal individualism (and capitalism) to "privatize" social welfare and security as it ensures that the nuclear family unit is the main source of that economic security and welfare rather than the state or community.

Actually welfare is very good for gdp. In Sweden, my home country, most women work rather than stay at home, cause of subsidized daycare. But that's beside the point. 

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i definitely felt that same pride about the idea of being single for life. but i think a lot of that has to do with being constantly pressured into romantic relationships. as a child, my sibling and i were outright told that even though we may not be interested in relationships and children now, we would be and we should. and, of course, being a snotty nosed kid, i ended up leaning even more into the idea of being single as better mostly to get back at the adults that insisted it was the right thing to be in a relationship.

now, i’d say i have a fairly neutral perspective of that sort of thing. marriage, cohabitation, etc., is a matter of practicality. it’s neither good or bad, just something that i may consider for practical reasons. people can absolutely be proud that they’re able to be single, just like they can be proud that they’re married or poly or etc., like rolo said, even if i feel pretty ambivalent myself

anyway, i do see the perspective of the strong, independent single person as more of a reaction to the idea that they have to get married than anything else.

Edited by cyancat
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This is interesting because at a younger age, I felt the same empowerment. I was even proud of not having a crush and sometimes belittled the ones who did or were interested in romance in general (I had my own way of being arrogant). A lot has changed since then and if you ask me, the "single narrative" is an illusion. Everything is connected with everything, we humans are no exception. It's just not always easy to see. In fact, I can't exist on my own. I *now* could live alone, of course, but there are people who brought me into this life, who gave me life.
There are people who helped me through hard times and without them, I wouldn't be here anymore. I learned my social skills through others, gained the knowledge I have through and from others. Everything I do has an influence on others and vice versa.
I don't feel empowered by the single narrative because I wouldn't describe myself as a "strong independent person". Ever. I love my friends and I love the people I meet in my daily life.
Your sentence, Holmbo:
"In fact I want instead to be tied to even more people than the traditional coupled person. It's just not gonna be as tight with one specific person." describes what I want very well.

So, I'm definitely community oriented. Hence why I'm sometimes disappointed with the egoism and the ignorance within us. On the other side, I'm happy I can live a rather individual life because in other times I would have been married off to someone to have social and financial safety. :/
I think we need to be attentive not to shift to the other extreme. It's good we all have more freedom than our ancestors but in my opinion with freedom comes more responsibility for everyone of us. It's just that not everyone realizes it.

Edited by NotHeartless
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the thing is though, the single narrative really only applies to romantic relationships? just because one may find empowerment in being single doesn’t mean they don’t have a community around them, just that they aren’t tethered by a committed relationship. or at least that’s how i’ve seen it generally depicted.

people definitely value the people around them/community/family/etc., even if they subscribe to the “single narrative.” perhaps there’s a bit of a conflation with the idea of being “single” and the requisite of society that you ought to be financially independent. one does not correlate with the other—being married does not mean you aren’t financially independent (actually it’s seen as even more of a sign of financial maturity)

likewise, i’d argue being single is seen as more immature? idk, i think the single narrative is a specific reaction to the idea that you have to be married or in a committed relationship as some rite of maturity — not necessarily against the idea of a community as a whole. i’d argue that the single narrative tends to prioritize the community, in fact. (since there’s no romantic commitment otherwise as a higher priority for allos alskfksl)

i can’t say there isn’t a toxicity of the single narrative — that romantic/like relationships or otherwise are somehow beneath one, but i’m not sure what you mean when you’re talking about living alone as a contrast to the single narrative?

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@cyancat
I feel like there are some aspects of single narrative that are separate from romantic relationship. For example in my experience singles are assumed to live alone. They're assumed to be more career oriented than those with a spouse and kids. They're generally viewed as more comfortable doing things on their own.

At least this was the narrative I internalized and sort of strived for myself. And it was not until later I've realized I do want strong committed relationships.

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6 hours ago, Holmbo said:

@cyancat
I feel like there are some aspects of single narrative that are separate from romantic relationship. For example in my experience singles are assumed to live alone. They're assumed to be more career oriented than those with a spouse and kids. They're generally viewed as more comfortable doing things on their own.

At least this was the narrative I internalized and sort of strived for myself. And it was not until later I've realized I do want strong committed relationships.

perhaps we have a bit different ideas then!  for me, it’s been solely about not having a committed partner. and maybe it’s because of the region i live in that it’s seen as more immature than necessarily a good thing in the narrative alskfls;;.

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I totally understand the immature thing that is connected to being single. When I was in school and we covered developmental psychology I learned that becoming an adult means to emancipate from your family and learning how to form functioning romantic relationships. That that is just how human life goes. And this narrative influenced me immensely (and probably did huge damage).

I recently listened to a podcast where they talked about romantic relationships and platonic relationships and how they are valued so differently from society. They explained it with an example that I found pretty precise. One of the hosts recounted how she was in accident and her boyfriend told his workplace that he couldnt come in because his gf was in an accident. They pointed out how easily people accept you having to be there for your partner although you might have only dated for a short time. If your friend of several years was in a accident and you wanted to take time of work a lot less people would probably understand. 

So my thinking is the narrative of romantic and platonic relationship really needs to change. Which ties in to the problem of amatonormativity like you all have already said. 

 

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On 11/28/2020 at 11:26 AM, Erederyn said:

I share many similar feelings. I used to think feed into this narrative, that being single and independent made me almost better than dependent/coupled people.

I think the narrative itself is often the false dichotomy of "single and independent" or "coupled and connected".

On 11/28/2020 at 11:26 AM, Erederyn said:

As I've gotten older, I see that this is not true and how much of that mindset was neoliberalistic and like you said, toxic individualism.

Whilst it may have been co-opted by neoliberalism it predates it.

On 11/30/2020 at 9:50 AM, Rolo said:

I feel like I'm even more connected to the place I live as a single person than I would be if i was in a relationship. If I wanted to move and was in a couple then I might be able to persuade my partner to move with me and have that companionship and support in that new place, but as it is I have half a dozen close friends who I can't bare to move away from.

This is an obvious way the narrative fails.
With "isolated singles" tending towards having many significant relationships which connect to community/communities.
Whilst "connected coupled" tending towards having a a singular relationship with each other. With fewer and weaker relationships with anyone else.
Possibly this represents a recent change in the behaviour of coupled people

On 12/1/2020 at 5:32 AM, Holmbo said:

@cyancat
I feel like there are some aspects of single narrative that are separate from romantic relationship. For example in my experience singles are assumed to live alone. They're assumed to be more career oriented than those with a spouse and kids. They're generally viewed as more comfortable doing things on their own.

Possibly the term "amantonormative narrative" might be more accurate.
Since the assumption here is is only romantic relationships matter at all.
 

On 12/1/2020 at 5:32 AM, Holmbo said:

@cyancat
At least this was the narrative I internalized and sort of strived for myself. And it was not until later I've realized I do want strong committed relationships.

This turns out to be what many single people (including allos) actually want.

On 12/1/2020 at 1:33 PM, elmas said:

I totally understand the immature thing that is connected to being single. When I was in school and we covered developmental psychology I learned that becoming an adult means to emancipate from your family and learning how to form functioning romantic relationships. That that is just how human life goes. And this narrative influenced me immensely (and probably did huge damage).

TBH amantomormativity has likely been hugely damaged the field of psychology.
With many people who claim to "study relationships" whilst in practice only studying romantic relationships. (Even just those which are hetero, monogamous and marital.)
The whole concept of "attachment theory" assumes a singular "primary" relationship. Even in respect of children in societies which are vitriolic about single parent families...

On 12/1/2020 at 1:33 PM, elmas said:

I recently listened to a podcast where they talked about romantic relationships and platonic relationships and how they are valued so differently from society. They explained it with an example that I found pretty precise. One of the hosts recounted how she was in accident and her boyfriend told his workplace that he couldnt come in because his gf was in an accident. They pointed out how easily people accept you having to be there for your partner although you might have only dated for a short time. If your friend of several years was in a accident and you wanted to take time of work a lot less people would probably understand.

Similar things can happen with such leave for family members (other than, minor, children) vs romantic partners.

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